Building bridges

The hybrid format of the symposium set a new precedent for ASU events. 

Undergraduate research experiences and the opportunity to present to a crowd are invaluable for students pursuing graduate programs and careers in STEM, and the lack of an in-person lab component had many wondering whether fully online STEM degree programs were even possible. 

In early days, online students fulfilled lab requirements at local partnering community colleges wherever possible and were left to their own devices to supplement their online coursework with professional development opportunities. 

Merging virtual technology like Zoom and GatherTown with in-person events is a pivotal step in bridging the gap between online and immersion degree programs. 

While the pandemic has had drastic effects on communities worldwide, the virtual solutions developed by the university are proving to be a silver lining. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated ASU’s production of innovative technologies and out-of-the-box methods of learning. 

“This event was a way of taking advantage of the technology that COVID-19 brought into our lives,” Baker said. “COVID-19 pushed us to use technology in an innovative and creative way that we never would have thought about before.”

Over 200 people participated in the symposium between in-person and virtual attendance. With the hybrid format being a huge success, the School of Life Sciences intends on structuring other events in a similar way. The Spring 2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium will follow the same structure with both in-person presenters and online presentations via Zoom and GatherTown.

“We are very proud with how far we have progressed with the BioSci Southwest Symposium since its inception three years ago,” said Shelley HaydelSchool of Life Science associate director of undergraduate programs. “I am remarkably proud to be the founding organizer for the event, and to see and experience its growth and expansion throughout the past three years and through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

ASU is committed to finding new and innovative ways to make education more inclusive for all students, with more than 120 STEM degree programs currently available through ASU Online.

The School of Life Sciences serves as an important catalyst in this mission, piloting multiple programs to design and implement virtual solutions for student success. One example of these is the Online Undergraduate Research Scholars (OURS) Program, which launched this fall in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' natural sciences division.

In addition to research events such as the BioSci Southwest and Spring Undergraduate Research Symposiums, the school is implementing multiple targeted initiatives to increase hands-on research opportunities for undergraduate ASU Online students. Interested students are encouraged to talk to their professors to learn more about new positions and programs available.

The program for the BioSci Southwest Symposium, which includes abstracts for the research presentations, can be found here.

Hayden Cunningham

Communications Assistant, School of Life Sciences